WANO looks ahead17 June 2020
Ingemar Engkvist, chief executive officer of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, and Tom Mitchell, the organisation’s chairman, spoke to NEI about the organisation’s priorities.
Above Image: In April WANO announced the registration of its new branch office in Shanghai, China. The new office will make it easier for WANO to provide its full range of services to operators located in the world’s fastest growing region for commercial nuclear power
THE WORLD ASSOCIATION OF NUCLEAR Operators (WANO) is a not-for-profit international organisation that helps its members maximise the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants worldwide. WANO was established in 1989 to exchange safety knowledge and operating experience amongst organisations operating commercial nuclear power reactors. Today, WANO’s members operate some 430 nuclear units in over 30 countries and areas worldwide.
What is your vision for WANO?
Ingemar Engkvist: “My vision is to make WANO even more efficient in supporting our members to achieve excellence. There is still an opportunity to improve in the industry further and we want to help our members close their gaps to excellence.”
Can you outline the organisation’s priorities/ focus areas for the coming years?
Ingemar: “My priorities are to engage and respond to our members needs more efficiently than we do today. We need to keep a close eye on all the stations around the world, and to be able to support them effectively, to provide them with support in enhancing nuclear leadership, with the aim to help the stations and members enhance performance and achieve their goals.”
Tom Mitchell: “We have been left a tremendous legacy by our predecessors — Jacques Re´galdo and Peter Prozesky — that we will build upon. WANO is a really unique, voluntary international organisation with members from all over the world coming together with the common objective of maximising safety and reliability. It is a very exciting time, as it is a growing and vibrant industry worldwide, and we plan to support our members in achieving their objectives.”
How will your experience in the nuclear industry contribute to your roles at WANO?
Ingemar: “When I arrived in Paris I didn’t know a lot about WANO, so it was a tremendous personal development opportunity for me to lead WANO Paris Centre, gain a deeper understanding of international standards and best practices, and learn more about what is going on globally with the industry. This, along with my industry experience from working in a variety of senior nuclear roles in Sweden, has provided me with the foundations to be an effective CEO for WANO.”
Tom: “We both bring to these roles a wide range of experience to the table — both from working in the industry and by gaining an understanding of how WANO works. For the future, we need to see how WANO can evolve to support the industry as it evolves with new technologies, new reactors and all the innovations that are happening in this exciting industry.”
WANO’s mission is to maximise the safety and reliability of nuclear plants. How do you measure success?
Ingemar: “One way of assessing if we are effective in what we do, is that when we visit plants every four years on peer reviews is that we don’t see big gaps to excellence. Another measure is to review the events that are happening at stations, as we have a very efficient feedback system at stations for events. So for example, if there is a component failing with a piece of equipment in a plant, then that would be included in our database. We collect that information from worldwide plants, analyse it, measure the amount of significant events and we share it with the industry, so our members can learn from each other and improve.”
Have you prevented events? Have you helped improve performance?
Tom: “I believe yes, we have helped members to improve performance at their plants and, in doing so, prevented events. The techniques we have employed and the measurements that we make have helped the industry globally. We are a safe industry that has become even safer.
When you have a target of achieving excellence, it means the industry must be continually improving — it is a goal that is always just out of reach. We as a community of operators from around the world have come together on a voluntary basis to commit to excellence and hold ourselves up to a very high standard.”
What products and services does WANO offer for members?
Ingemar: “The very core business of WANO is our peer reviews where we send an international team to a member plant or facility for a peer review every four years. During the review, we typically spend around two to three weeks to observe and review the behaviours and standards at the site, and then at the end we write our conclusions in a report. The purpose of the report is to say that we as international colleagues and peers to you have noticed that you could improve in this area and become even better.” Ingemar: “Another key service is that we openly share experiences with other operators globally to avoid repetition in the industry. This a unique service as it is a collaboration for the greater good between competitors. We also provide training in some cases, we provide different kinds of support missions to members, such as ones that focus on equipment reliability. We hold up a mirror to our members — we are colleagues in the industry, many of our seconded staff comes from plants globally — and we present what we observe in those plants to help our members improve.
WANO is playing an increasing role with newcomer countries. How will this shape the organisation’s offerings?
Tom: “The growth of new units in countries that already have nuclear power and also in newcomer countries demonstrated that it is a vibrant and growing industry. More than 50 reactors have come online in the last decade and around 50 are under construction. So that’s around 100 new reactors being built over a 15-20 year period. That presents a huge opportunity for WANO to support its members who are building these facilities, and to help them manage a safe transition from construction to operation. Recently WANO, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and EPRI have put together a package of training materials, experience and expertise to provide support for the industry and help new units benefit during their transition to operation. Our new industry white paper can be downloaded from the WANO website.”
It is nine years since the Fukushima accident. What was WANO’s response to this event?
Tom: “Fukushima was a watershed moment for WANO, and our response manifested itself in a detailed review of WANO programmes, resources and its focus. WANO identified 12 Post Fukushima projects to implement across the organisation and its membership and they have now been completed. The lessons learned from Fukushima have resulted in our members collectively implementing a total of approximately 6000 safety enhancement activities worldwide. WANO today is a much stronger organisation, the quality and consistency of its programmes have improved across the world. Just like our members, WANO is constantly looking to achieve excellence. Ultimately the focus of our internal efforts after Fukushima has been to improve our ability to help our members to prevent another large scale event.”
How are nuclear power plant operators prepared to ensure continued safe and reliable operation during the current pandemic?
Ingemar: “The Nuclear Energy Institute in the US has issued a guideline on how plants can plan, prepare and respond to a pandemic — we have in WANO shared this with our members and it is available on our member website, for our members to check it against their own plans. We have also encouraged our members to share their own plans with each other — this sharing of information is very much a fundamental part of WANO’s ethos.”
What measures are in place to help WANO’s ability to carry out its mission in a situation where travel may be restricted?
Ingemar: “The health and safety of our staff, and those working at our members’ plants and facilities, are always our key priority. WANO is following recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and those provided by national governments.
Tom: “Although it may change our plans temporarily, it won’t impact our ability in the long run to provide the support that our members expect.”
About Ingemar Engkvist: Ingemar Engkvist became WANO CEO on 1 January 2020. Before his current role, Ingemar was director of WANO Paris Centre for nearly four years, where he oversaw the overall strategy and day-to-day operations for the Centre. Prior to joining WANO, Ingemar was managing director for E.ON Nuclear Sweden in 2010-2015. He has been on the board of all nuclear companies in Sweden and chairman of OKG AB and has held a number of site-level positions in the Swedish nuclear industry. Ingemar holds a PhD in Nuclear Chemistry from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
About Tom Mitchell: Tom Mitchell became WANO chairman on 1 March 2019, replacing Jacques Re´galdo. Tom has over 40 years of nuclear energy leadership experience. He is the retired president, CEO, and director of Ontario Power Generation in Canada. Tom was vice president of international programmes and assistance at INPO and served as deputy director of the WANO Atlanta Centre. He also has served on the Board of FirstEnergy, the Electric Power Research Institute, the US Nuclear Energy Institute, and was chair of WANO’s Post-Fukushima Commission. Tom has an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering from Cornell University, a master degree in mechanical engineering from George Washington University, and an honorary doctorate degree from University of Ontario Institute of Technology.